This smartphone app could predict depression from your speech patterns

In a new study, researchers have developed a smartphone app called Watchyourtalk app to help predict depression.

The app is a SaaS-based platform which runs in the background to a user’s usual smartphone activity and collects data surrounding their word choice, semantic content, vocal tone and cognitive and linguistic state.

The data is then funneled it into an algorithm which can predict whether someone may develop depression up to 12 months in advance.

The research was done by a team led by Vishal Rana in Adelaide, South Australia.

The technology is rooted in research surrounding textual analysis and the science’s ability to forecast suicidal ideation and depression.

The team says Watchyourtalk is based off 30 years of research from Professor James Pennebaker from the University of Texas.

That study had shown that within the text, there were certain words people could use in their speech—specifically some pronouns like ” ‘me’ ‘myself’ ‘he’ ‘herself’ ‘she’ – which predicted whether they’re going towards depression.

The more people focus on themselves during their speech the more it can actually predict the likelihood of developing depression in the future.

In the study, the team developed the prototype of the app and is seeking funding to commercialize the product.

Once fully funded, Watchyourtalk will also operate as a telehealth service to connect users to nearby psychologists.

Watchyourtalk will be free for users to measure their words but a monthly subscription of $49 is required to unlock the other features, such as self-administering mental health tests.

This app might not be useful for the people who are already facing depression, but for the people who in the future might be likely to develop depression, it may help with the prevention.

While the Watchyourtalk prototype is available to download on Android devices, the product will be completely commercialized 18 months after investment funding is secured.

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